Untreated Hearing Loss Linked to Isolation and Loneliness in Seniors

In the United States, more than nine million Americans over the age of 65 suffer from hearing loss. A further 10 million aged 45 – 64 suffer from a form of hearing loss. Yet despite these figures, only 3 out of 5 senior Americans with hearing loss use hearing aids.

Untreated hearing loss can have serious emotional and social repercussions. Multiple studies have explored the links between hearing loss in an aging population in regards to how it affects feelings of isolation, depression and loneliness. One common trend emerges: untreated hearing loss is likely to exacerbate these feelings.

Hearing Loss and Overall Well-being

The National Council on the Aging (NCOA) carried out a study, conducted by the Seniors Research Group, aimed at demonstrating the extent that untreated hearing loss impacts an individual’s well-being, feelings of depression and / or social isolation.

The study surveyed 2,300 hearing impaired adults aged 50 and over. Results indicated that those with untreated hearing loss were more likely to report anxiety, depression or paranoia. Furthermore, they were less likely to engage or participate in organized social activities when compared to seniors who are treating their hearing loss with hearing aids.

Commenting on the results, James Firman, Ed.D., president and CEO of The National Council on the Aging, said “this study debunks the myth that untreated hearing loss in older persons is a harmless condition.”

The survey identified that a significantly higher proportion of the respondents with untreated hearing loss (i.e. are not wearing hearing aids) claimed to have had feelings of depression or sadness that lasted at least two weeks in the previous years. 30% of respondents with more severe, untreated, hearing loss identified these feelings of depression. This compared to only 22% of respondents who were treating their hearing loss with hearing aids.

Due to the fact that social isolation can be a serious problem for some older people, the study also examined social behavior. It identified that those who don’t use hearing aids were more likely to shun social activities. Results identified that 42% of hearing aid users would regularly particularly in social activities, compared to only 32% of those who didn’t use hearing aids.

Benefits of Treatment

Treating hearing loss with hearing aids can have far reaching positive benefits. Not only can treating hearing loss improve relationships at home, it can help to revive a sense of independence. The NCOA’s study found “in virtually every dimension measured, the families of hearing aid users also noted the improvements but were even more likely than the users to report improvements.”

Improvement Area Improvement Reported by Hearing Aid User (%) Improvement Reported by User’s Family (%)
Relations at home 56 66
Feelings about self 50 60
Life overall 48 62
Relations with children, grandchildren 40 52
Mental health 36 39
Self-confidence 39 46
Sense of safety 34 37
Social life 34 41
Relations at work 26 43
Sex life 8 NA

[Source: www.ncoa.org]

Why don’t people get help?

The reasons given why most of the seniors didn’t get help sooner were responses such as “my hearing is not bad enough” or “I can get along without a hearing aid.” Another reason sighted was the cost of hearing aids, or stigmas such as “it would make me feel old,” or “I’m too embarrassed to wear one.”

Hearing Aid technology has advanced and discrete devices are available that can barely be seen and work better than ever before. We know the benefits to your health and happiness will be felt every day as soon as you are ready to start living your life to the fullest. Don’t let your hearing go untreated. Contact us today to find out how we can help treat your hearing loss. Request an appointment or call (212) 786-5741 today.

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Understanding & Preventing Noise Induced Hearing Loss

Do you struggle to follow conversations in loud environments? Have you persistently been exposed to loud noise, or have ringing in your ears? If you’ve answered ‘yes’ to these questions, you may have noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL).

What is noise-induced hearing loss?

Noise-induced hearing loss is caused by prolonged exposure to excessive levels of noise – for example, in noisy workplaces, or while listening to loud music. It can also be caused by extremely loud bursts of sound such as gunshots and explosions that can lead to damage within the ear structures. You may not even notice the symptoms of NIHL until years after you were first exposed to loud noise. Tinnitus is often the first indicator that someone’s hearing has been damaged by noise.

Preventing noise-induced hearing loss

Typical Sound Levels

Noise levels are usually measured in decibels (dB), a decibel scale that reflects the sensitivity of human ears to different levels and pitches of sound. Long exposure to sounds over 80 dB can damage your ears.

To help understand how this translates in the real world, ask yourself are you able to talk to someone standing 3 feet away from you without shouting over the background noise? If you are unable to communicate without raising your voice, there’s a good chance that the background noise is potentially hazardous to your hearing. If you’re ever anywhere where the sound volume hurts your ears, you should leave to avoid any damage. Some examples of common sounds we encounter are…

  • Heavy city traffic – 85 decibels
  • Motorcycles – 95 decibels
  • MP3 player at maximum volume – 105 decibels
  • Sirens – 120 decibels
  • Firecrackers/ firearms – 150 decibels

Treating noise-induced hearing loss

Scientific research has determined that, after excessive noise has stimulated cells in the inner ear, a chemical process called “apoptosis” occurs. Once the delicate hair cells in the inner ear are damaged by noise exposure, they cannot be restored. Unfortunately at this time, modern medicine has not yet discovered a way to restore hearing loss caused by excessive noise exposure. It is, however, possible to treat the communication impairments that are caused by noise-induced hearing loss.

Hearing aids can prove beneficial for sufferers by improving hearing in a number of everyday situations. They an also help to reduce an individual’s awareness of any tinnitus. But the best method is to try and prevent any noise-induced hearing loss in the first place. Try to avoid loud sounds at work, at home or when you go out and use hearing protection such as ear plugs or other isolation headphones.

Early detection and vigilance are key to help protect your hearing. We highly recommend regular screening. If you do have or suspect you might have NIHL, come in to speak to our expert team and find out how we can help you today. Call us at (212) 786-5741, or click here to request an appointment today.

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Understanding and Treating Unilateral Hearing Loss

Unilateral hearing loss (UHL), or Single Sided Deafness (SSD), occurs when the hearing in one ear is within a normal range, while the other ear has a hearing loss ranging from mild to profound. SSD is more troublesome and common than most people realize, and often goes untreated. Total hearing loss in one ear has been found to be very debilitating; affecting work, home and social interactions resulting from the reduced ability to localize sounds or discriminate speech in the presence of background noise.

Key Facts about Unilateral Hearing Loss

Before we delve into the symptoms and treatment of UHL, let’s first explore some of the key facts around the condition:

  • In the US, an estimated 60,000 people per year develop UHL.
  • On average, 1 out of every 1000 children is born with UHL. This increases a child’s risk of academic, social-emotional, and speech-language difficulties than their peers with normal hearing.
  • UHL may onset suddenly or progressively. It may also be congenital.
  • Causes can be viral infections, Meniere’s disease, head or ear injuries, or as a result of surgical intervention to remove brainstem tumours.
  • It can be associated with other aural symptoms such as otalgia, tinnitus and vertigo.

Symptoms of Unilateral Hearing Loss

Symptoms of unilateral hearing loss vary, and can include:

  • An inability to pinpoint the origin of sounds in a space. This can prove dangerous in situations where auditory awareness is important, such as when navigating traffic or driving.
  • Difficulty hearing on one side.
  • Difficulty isolating the source of sound especially in the presence of background noise, resulting in a blurring effect.
  • Reduced confidence and overall well-being.
  • Frequent stress and irritability as a result of difficulty communicating
  • Social isolation; avoiding meetings, busy places, social/family gatherings

Treatment for Unilateral Hearing Loss

Less severe cases of UHL are can be managed with conventional hearing aid technology in conjunction with aural rehabilitation and effective communication strategies. This includes advising individuals how to minimize the impact of UHL, such as learning to adapt to the condition and their environment. This can include avoiding overly crowded, noisy environments or selecting seating positions carefully.

More severe cases of UHL may be treated with assistive hearing devices. One such hearing devices is known as ‘Contralateral Routing of Signals’, or (CROS). CROS hearing aids are made up of a hearing aid shell which contains a receiver, and a secondary unit that includes a small microphone system. The receiver unit sits in or behind the unaffected ear, while the microphone system sits on the ear impacted by UHL. The microphone system picks up sounds, and then transmits these sounds to the receive on the good ear. CROS devices look like regular hearing aids but the sound is directed to the better ear.

CROS hearing aids can also be further divided into two additional categories. Bi-CROS hearing aids are used when there is also some hearing loss in the better ear. The signal from the poorer ear is transmitted like in a typical CROS system, but it is also amplified and cleaned up so that it can be heard more easily on the better hearing ear. Amp-CROS hearing aids are capable of stimulating the worse ear with sound, but they also transmit signals to the better ear at the same time. These are used with patients with some residual hearing in the poorer ear who may want to have a small amount of stimulation on that side to help reduce the presence of tinnitus symptoms.

Another treatment method is known as the bone-anchored hearing aid (BAHA) system. A BAHA is clipped onto a small titanium implant that is surgically anchored in the bone behind the impaired ear. The processor picks up sounds and transfers them to the good ear by vibrating them into the bone inside your skull. This process enables sounds to be heard and understood from both sides of an individual. BAHA hearing aids are also used in patients with severe conductive hearing loss.

The treatment options for UHL depend on the severity of the condition. If you suspect that you or a loved one may be suffering from unilateral hearing loss, don’t delay speaking to a hearing specialist. Call us on (212) 786-5741 or click here to Request An Appointment today.

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How Can Hearing Loss Impact Your Earning Potential?

Hearing loss affects multiple aspects of life. Not only does hearing loss affect a person’s ability to communicate easily with people in their social circle, studies have indicated that the impact of hearing loss even extends to an individual’s earning potential. According to a 2012 study published in Annals of Otology, Rhinology & Laryngology, adults with hearing loss are more likely to be unemployed, as well as earning lower wages.

The Better Hearing Institute Study

The Better Hearing Institute (BHI) set out to identify to what extent a working adults earning potential can be impacted by untreated hearing loss in their study entitled, ‘The Impact of Untreated Hearing Loss on Household Income.

The BHI  began by mailing a brief screening survey to 80,000 households across the US. Respondents helped identify approximately 16,000 individuals with hearing loss.

Using the list of 16,000 individuals with hearing loss, more extensive surveys were sent to a random sample of 3,000 people with hearing loss that currently own hearing aids, and a random sample of 3,000 people with hearing loss that do not presently own hearing aids.

The 7-page survey included questions about demographics, the use of hearing aids, hearing loss, career information, and long-term plans. Respondents were also asked questions about the severity of their hearing loss, allowing researchers to categorize them into one of our categories, ranging from mild to profound. Using the collected data, researchers were able to compare the earned income to the extent of hearing loss, and to compare the earned income between those who used hearing aids, and those who did not.

The Results

Across the studies, one underlying fact resonated. Individuals who suffer with hearing loss, particularly untreated hearing loss, were more likely to experience economic hardship, either as the result of low income or unemployment.

The researchers found that the impact of the hearing loss extends far beyond the individual, and has a significant impact on our society as a whole. According to the study, the calculated cost of lost earnings caused by untreated hearing loss in the United States is $122 billion, which results in an estimated $18 billion of uncollected federal taxes.

Most importantly, the study identified that the use of hearing aids mitigated the negative earning potential as a result of hearing loss by up to 50 percent. Don’t let hearing loss negatively impact your earning potential. Book a consultation with our audiologist today, or contact us on (212) 786-5741.

Posted by Admin

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